Thailand’s capital city is well known for its delicious cuisine, ornate temples, low-cost markets and boutiques, and vibrant nightlife.
Bangkok was the second leg of our trip, which began in Singapore, and the first of our two stops in Thailand. We spent 3 days in Bangkok.
Bangkok at a glance
Most of the locals, especially those in the tourism and service industries, can speak and understand English. You will, however, encounter some who can’t or can speak just a tad bit. For instance, some of the taxi drivers we rode with were unable to communicate in English, but I think they understood some. We mainly used the Grab app while we were there, and the places we visited fortunately had a Thai translation of the destination’s name and address. Generally speaking, we didn’t have much trouble going around the city.
Climate is tropical, so pack some cool clothes and shorts! A portable umbrella or raincoat would also be useful to carry around in case of occasional showers.
Currency: Thai baht (฿/THB/Bht/Bt)
Power plugs with two-prong flat or round pins (types A and C) are commonly used. Those with two flat parallel pins and a round grounding pin (type B) and with three round pins are also used. The standard electrical current is 220 volts AC.
Bangkok has an above-ground train system known as the Skytrain or BTS, and an underground metro or MRT. Other modes of common transport include brightly colored taxis and three-wheeled auto rickshaws called tuk tuks, river boats and buses.
Our experience flying from Singapore to Bangkok
I had a bit of a snag while purchasing a designated seat a couple of days before flying out of Singapore. Somehow my credit card purchase could not go through despite having more than enough balance and being authorized for overseas use. Fortunately, we were able to easily contact Jetstar (we called them using our local Singapore SIM card bundled with a certain amount of local calls) and sorted out the matter quickly. And for this, I could say I had a positive experience with their customer service.
We both flew with Jetstar and had to use the self-service kiosk and bag drop at Singapore’s Changi International Airport. The self-service upon checking in and dropping off the luggage is definitely a new experience for me, and a bit of a challenge in its own way! However, there are several airline employees around to assist passengers with the process
We had a short yet pleasant flight with Jetstar (2h 25m) and arrived mid-morning at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. The city has two international airports – Don Mueang International Airport and the newer Suvarnabhumi.
There are several kiosks of different banks at the airport. I opted to have my money changed to local currency there as I didn’t want to go around town looking for money changers, and I wanted to have some cash in hand before leaving the airport. However, it wasn’t difficult to find currency exchange bureaus around the city, so I don’t think it would be a problem if you decide to have your money changed at a later time outside the airport.
We then purchased a *15-day AIS Traveller SIM for 599 baht, with unlimited Internet and free 100 baht credit that is valid for 30 days. The helpful lady at the kiosk set up the SIM for us, though it seemed she was a bit inexperienced with my dual-SIM Sony Xperia XA1. She wanted to remove my other SIM, but I didn’t want to as it worked out well with two SIMs in Singapore. She did not speak English and we had a wee bit of trouble communicating when I was attempting to change the SIM settings on my phone. Everything got sorted out just fine after several minutes. However, she was able to set it up in an iPhone 7 in no time.
*We purchased a 15-day SIM card as we were flying to Koh Samui and staying there for 10 days, after Bangkok. We we were quite happy with AIS because we had good connection everywhere we went.
From the airport to accommodations (and the other way around)
From the airport to Buddy Lodge hotel, we chose to book a taxi/private car via the Grab app (which we also found useful during our Singapore trip) as we find this method more convenient. You can download the app for free on Google Play and on Apple’s App Store. We were welcomed by some traffic and congestion along the way, which is apparently common in Bangkok, more so during rush hour.
Should you opt to hail a taxi yourself, make sure the driver will have the meter running to avoid being overcharged. I believe all taxis have a meter, but not all drivers are compliant with using it. Some quote you a fixed fare that is often higher than if your trip was metered. Do be careful and don’t get on until you have agreed on how to proceed, metered or not. If you have the Grab app, you can also use it to get an idea of how much the ride would cost you, then compare.
Sometimes Grab does have a surge in pricing, particularly during peak or rush hours, but it is indicated in the app. Best to double-check the fees and make sure you are okay with how much the fare is before booking a ride. There is no Uber in Southeast Asia, including Thailand. Just Grab. There are probably other similar apps, but we didn’t use those.
Grab has a loyalty program, dubbed GrabRewards, wherein frequent users earn points. I use Grab often, so I racked up quite a number of points. I usually use these to redeem fare discounts.
How much is the fare to and from the airport?
To give you a general idea of our rides via Grab from the airport to our hotels, here’s how much they cost us, as of May/June 2018:
- Suvarnabhumi Airport to Khaosan Road = 388 baht
- Don Mueang Airport to Samsen Road = 422 baht, including a 70 baht toll
- Samsen Road to Suvarnabhumi Airport = 426 baht, including a 25 baht toll
TIP: How heavy the traffic would be on the way to the airport is unpredictable, so do allot some extra time when heading there for your flight back home or to your next destination. It would be better to leave your hotel at least 30 minutes or 1 hour earlier than usual.
Via Bangkok’s Airport Rail Link
If you landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport, you can opt to take the Airport Rail Link — a commuter rail that connects the airport to the BTS Skytrain at Phaya Thai station in central Bangkok via Makkasan City Interchange Station (MRT Petchaburi Station).
The fare costs between 15 baht to 45 baht. The rail link operates daily from 6:00 a.m. to midnight. You can find more information here.
Exploring Bangkok, day by day
We spent 3 days in Bangkok. The weather in late May was mostly cloudy with occasional rain, sometimes sunny.
After checking in at Buddy Lodge in Khaosan Road, we rested for a bit then headed to the temple of the Golden Mount (Wat Saket). We opted to walk from the hotel to the temple so we could also explore the neighborhood a bit.
The King and us
Along the way, when we were about to cross the road, we were suddenly asked to stop by some sort of security official. He explained that the king’s car would be passing through, so everyone was asked to stay put until the coast is clear. No photos or videos were allowed. The hustle and bustle of the city seemed to stop for a moment. I had no idea which car the king was in, nor did I get a glimpse of him. Nonetheless, it was an experience I won’t forget!
Up you go!
At the Golden Mount, we climbed more than 300 steps to reach the top (whew!). Make sure you have some bottled water with you as it could be quite an exercise! There are, however, resting spots along the way. Upon reaching the top, you will find a small store where you can purchase some stuff, like water and ice cream. You can then proceed to the rooftop where you will see an enormous gold Buddhist stupa or chedi. We rewarded ourselves with some ice cream while enjoying a nice view of Bangkok. It was a bit cloudy during our visit, but it was still a nice view.
At the time of our trip to Bangkok in May 2018, admission fee to the Golden Mount was around 50 baht. It’s open daily from 7.30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
It seemed like it was going to rain, so we decided to go back home. We took a tuk tuk after negotiating with the driver a fare we considered reasonable. It was probably still a tad expensive, but we wanted to experience a tuk tuk ride.
In the evening, we walked around Khaosan Road, where our hotel is located. Khaosan Road has lots of food stalls, restaurants, and all sorts of shops and vendors around. I bought a couple of summer dresses from one of the clothing vendors. Remember to try and ask for a bargain to get a price that you are okay with. It’s the perfect time to put some of your negotiating skills into practice!
Hello, Khaosan Road
Khaosan Road is relatively quiet at daytime, but it gets loud and crazy at night! The crowd pours in and loud party music is everywhere. If you’re looking for some nightlife in Bangkok, this is one of the places to be. We really liked our room at Buddy Lodge, but it was a bit of a struggle for us to sleep because of the noise. Although we did notice that the loud atmosphere gradually died down from around 2:00 a.m. onwards. If you don’t mind the noise, it’s actually a pretty convenient place to stay. There are lots of establishments — including pharmacies, convenience stores, restaurants, and various types of vendors — along the strip. However, if you prefer a quiet evening we strongly recommend you to stay elsewhere.
We looked through a number of restaurants at Khaosan Road and decided to try Buddy Beer. Don’t be misled by the name because it doesn’t just serve beer and other liquor! It’s actually a nice restaurant with a bar, and we really liked eating here. The menu is not too pricey, the atmosphere is nice, the service is excellent, and the food is pretty good. It’s just a short walk away from our hotel. It’s an affiliate of Buddy Lodge too, and as a bonus they gave us a discount coupon for the restaurant. Unfortunately we always forgot to take it with us during the times we went to eat there.
After dinner, we booked a taxi using Grab and decided to check out a couple of markets — Chatuchak Weekend Market and JJ Green night market — as they are on the same road. Sounds good, right? Ah, but the thing is we forgot that it was a Wednesday, and the said markets were only open during the weekends (JJ Green is open from Thursday).
Fortunately, the taxi driver was really nice, and despite the language barrier, he was able to take us to a different night market. This one seemed to be in between a strip of bars with scantily clad individuals calling the attention of passers by, though… Perhaps it was right along the red-light district. Maybe the driver warned us but we just didn’t understand. Anyway, we just looked around the market for a while then went home to have some shut eye.
We had some good breakfast near the hotel. At the restaurant, we asked a bit about how we could go to Wat Arun. A waiter and one of the locals eating there said we needed to cross Chao Phraya River with a “shuttle” boat to get to the other side, where Wat Arun is located. We thanked them and paid our bill. I bought a long wrap-around skirt at a shop that we passed by along the way. I was able to wear this over my shorts (since I mostly packed shorts). It wore it several more times during the trip whenever we visited temples, as modest attire is required.
After crossing the road, we asked for directions to the river and the boat terminal/pier. There was a man who eagerly helped us and even drew directions for us. We took a tuk tuk and he gave the driver directions to the so-called pier. However, it later turned out that he was probably working with some sort of boat tour service because the directions he gave us was to that service’s boat pier, not the proper one. They asked for a hefty price for the ride, but I was able to ask for something less, insisting that we just wanted to go across to Wat Arun and not the other places.
I thought we made a reasonable deal, but I was wrong. It was a quick ride, more or less 10 minutes. We later learned on our way back across Chao Phraya River that there was a different boat terminal for passengers and it charges much, much less. We totally overpaid (about a hundred baht more! :sadface:). Be careful and don’t make the same mistake I did. Make sure to look for the proper terminal/pier for “shuttle” boats. It costs less than 10 baht per person.
Wat Pho is at Tha Thien Pier, opposite which is Wat Arun.
Wat Arun and Wat Pho
The spires around Wat Arun looked stunning, decorated with small colorful pieces of glass and porcelain (somewhat like a mosaic). I think Wat Arun stands out from the other temples because of this. It looked quite amazing. At the time we were there, admission was around 50 baht.
Back on the other side of the river, we proceeded to Wat Pho, or the temple of the reclining Buddha. Admission fee was around 100 baht, including a small complimentary bottle of water. It was a bit busier than Wat Arun.
We then went home and rested for a bit before going out for dinner. We ate at the same place because we liked the restaurant so much.
We booked Chillax Resort for an overnight stay. It’s a 4-star hotel, described in their website as a luxury hotel. We wanted to experience a bit of luxury and relax, but we didn’t want to spend too much. It’s located in Samsen Road — a much quieter area than Khaosan Road, in our opinion.
After checking in, we went to MBK Center, one of Bangkok’s many malls, and did some shopping. It rained most of the day, so we ended up staying here for a while. We also bought some souvenirs and had dinner at a fast-food restaurant. We then headed home to pack our things for our next flight and rest.
If you have the whole day and good weather, we suggest heading to The Grand Palace and What Phra Kaew, which is in the palace grounds. There’s also Wat Traimit temple in Chinatown, or the popular Chatuchak Weekend Market and other night markets around Bangkok such as JJ Green Market.
Some parting thoughts
The AIS Traveller SIM is great, in our opinion. Really good mobile data connection. We will definitely use again.
Where to stay
We really liked our room at Buddy Lodge because we found it comfortable and thought it had a very nice ambiance and interior design with a sort of vintage feel to it. However, the loud music and noise from Khaosan Road at night might be bothersome, so avoid this area and look for a hotel elsewhere in Bangkok if you prefer a quiet and relaxing evening. Chillax Resort was also nice, and we would say much classier than Buddy Lodge.
We liked Chillax for the quieter area and relaxing ambiance (it has a jacuzzi/spa bath in the room!), but Buddy Lodge feels cozier and homier for us despite the noisy neighborhood at night.
Bangkok is peppered with shops selling Thai silver. If you plan on buying something, remember to canvass around first as the price varies. We noticed, however, that the price difference is not too significant… but still, that’s a few more bahts that you can save! We bought a couple of bracelets, plus a pair of casual earrings for me.
Small shops and vendors are also everywhere around Bangkok, selling clothes, souvenirs and other various items. More often than not, they will give you some discount if you ask for a lower price. No harm in asking, right? So ask away! There are also several malls, with shops including those selling designer products – both originals and knockoffs.
Into the temples
Remember that temples require modest attire. It’s best to wear pants or shorts/skirts that are at least knee-length and covers much of your legs. Avoid wearing tank tops or anything similar that reveals your bare shoulders. If you’re wearing something other than what is allowed, you can cover yourself up with a long wrap-around cloth or skirt and a jacket or shawl, etc. Sometimes you can borrow or rent covers/cloths from the temple’s visitor center.
Also remember to double-check the opening hours and admission fees before you plan your visit.
A little something for you!
We created a printable PDF document of our travel itinerary in Bangkok, which we will post over the next few days. It will be available as a free download too!
~ Safe travels, everyone!
Have you been to Bangkok? Which things to do and places to visit there would you recommend?